With barely a month to go before the first Local Service Provider (LSP) contracts are awarded Patient First Alliance (PFA) have been disqualified from the procurement competitions in the North West and North East, after failing to meet a Monday deadline to clarify their position.

Their elimination leaves LSP consortia led by Cerner and Accenture as the only two still in the running for the North East contract, and IBM, BT, CSC and Fujitsu left competing for the North West contract.

Multiple sources early this week indicated that PFA, the LSP consortia, jointly led by Jarvis and Deloitte and Touche, had possibly withdrawn at the eleventh hour. 

At the end of last week letters were sent out from the NPfIT to people due to attend demonstrations of the PFA Integrated Care Records Service (ICRS) solution in the North West, cancelling the demonstrations at short notice.  In addition, PFA had withdrawn resources from the proof of solution testing underway at Hadfield in the past two weeks. 

The elimination of PFA was subsequently confirmed by the National Programme for IT on Tuesday after E-Health Insider asked for clarification.  By this point the PFA website had already had the plug pulled.

A national programme spokesperson said:  “The NPfIT has worked actively with PFA to reach an equitable contract.  Over the past 14-days PFA have withdrawn their test resources and have not provided the programme with sufficient clarity with regard to their position.  PFA are no longer a bidder to the NPfIT.”

Sources indicate that the national programme asked PFA to provide clarification of its position by a Monday lunchtime deadline, and that although it responded the LSP did not provide the clarity needed – in effect disqualifying itself. 

The line-up of PFA had changed significantly in recent weeks and months, originally led by Jarvis and SAIC, Deloitte and Touche had joined and taken over as a joint prime in recent weeks. Sources close to the NPfIT indicated that the changing line-up had led to a reduction in the LSP’s appetite for taking on risk.

The withdrawal of PFA, which follows Lockheed Martin’s departure in July, means that 15 bidders are now left competing for the five LSP and one National Application Service Provider (NASP) contracts, all of which are due to be awarded by the end of the calendar year.

With only two bidders now left bidding for each of the contracts for London, the North West and the national data spine, the national programme says that its goal is to make sure it has two competitors down to final contract award – at least ideally.  “We continue to pursue a high quality and open procurement process.  That includes taking at least two bidders to final stage, wherever possible.” 

One industry insider suggested the finger pointed to contract terms and the balance of risk and reward – particularly in phase one of the project – as the key reasons behind PFA’s departure.

Tola Sargeant, an Ovum analyst tracking the NPfIT commented on PFA’s elimination: “I do think it’s significant, but it’s not an IBM or one of the other major players we would have thought a leading candidate for winning a contract.”

Jarvis is currently grappling with a series of problems, these include its recent withdrawal from rail maintenance contracts and failure to be selected for new PFI contracts for the NHS.

She concluded: “It is a large programme and does require a large amount of resources even in the bidding process,” noted Ms Sargeant.